Sunday, March 27, 2011

One Lovely Blog Award

A special thank you to Kathryn at Kathryn's Quest and Cindy at My Savage Family for nominating my blog for the "One Lovely Blog Award"!  I really appreciate it (even though I've been a bit of a blogging slacker for the past couple of weeks)!

We are given very few rules for accepting the award:
1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who granted the award and their blog link.
2. Pass the award on to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

I am passing the award to the following blogs:

Ancestor Soup
Caro's Family Chronicles
Climbing My Family Tree
Elyse's Genealogy Blog
Genealogy Tip of the Day
Marian's Roots and Rambles
Past & Present
Shakin' the Family Tree
Staats Place
Adventures in Genealogy
Barking Up Our Family Tree
Documenting the Details
Find Your Folks
Mary's Musings
My Ancestors and Me

Congratulations to all of you.  I enjoy reading your blogs, and now others will too!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My (Fruitless) Visit to the National Archives

While we all like to let our readers know about successful genealogical findings, I think it is equally important to let them know of our mistakes so they can benefit and (hopefully) not make the same ones.  This is one of those posts ...

My mom and I traveled to Washington, DC from Fredericksburg, VA last Thursday for the sole purpose of conducting some research at the National Archives.  To say I was completely unprepared for that step in the grand scheme of things would be an understatement.  I went to the NARA website to determine what records they had available before I did anything else.  Let me just say that it's hard to determine whether NARA has the records you seek ... unless you know exactly what you are looking for.  I was obviously doing it wrong ... in any case, my entire research trip ended up being a bust.  I was glad to have been able to visit the Archives just so I could say I was there, but I really would like to have something to show for it besides the awesome Researcher Card (identity hidden to protect the innocent).  The card is valid for 1 year, but is renewable so you don't have to go through the painful photograph process more than once!

They have very strict rules about what you can and cannot take into the Archives.  A list is available here.  Be prepared to spend at least 20 minutes getting through security (if there is no line) and another 20 minutes getting your Researcher Card.  My advice: get there before they open and check in before the crowd arrives.  You can sign in and get your visitor badge, put your stuff in a locker, and get breakfast or something. That's what we did.  Only take what you absolutely need: a pencil, a laptop, a scanner (a FlipPal may or may not be allowed, depending on who conducts the authorization process), a camera, and a flash drive.  You might also need pocketfuls of change or you can put credits on your research card at the cashier.  I'm not really sure how this works, because we never made it that far.  In any case, the less you can carry in, the better.

I have to admit, when we arrived we were greeted by what may be the kindest, most helpful security force I've ever met.  They made the unpleasant security procedures bearable.  They pointed us in the direction of a decent place to get breakfast, and suggested that we go ahead and check in early to avoid the crowd when we returned.  We spent roughly 3-4 hours in there, spending 99% of that time at the public computer terminals and information desk.  The young lady at the information desk was also VERY helpful (even if she was constantly telling me that they didn't have those records at that facility ... more on that later).  One of the female security officers on duty as we were leaving must not have gotten the memo about how helpful they were supposed to be, and she actually shoved me as I tried to go around her to return my visitor badge.  (Don't worry ... I didn't fight back and I didn't press charges.  Are you kidding? I would still be doing paperwork!)

Lessons learned:  Travel light.  Figure out exactly what records you need and make sure they are at the facility you are visiting - it's not always clear on the website which facility houses your records.  (For example, civil war military records are kept in DC, but the confederate civil war pension files are kept in the individual states; union pension records are housed in the Maryland facility).  Even though I didn't find any new information, it was still a great learning experience.  Next time, I'll be more prepared (but honestly, I'll probably just request records by mail and spend more time sightseeing when I visit my mom!)

I gave up on the Archives for Friday and went sightseeing all the way from Arlington Cemetery to the Library of Congress.  I'll post on that separately.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Visiting Living Relatives

You may have noticed that I haven't posted anything to my blog recently.  I've been so busy trying to get everything done at work and school before spring break - in preparation for my vacation - that I simply haven't had time to do much else.

I drove up to Fredericksburg to see my  mom and we've had such a good time so far.  I gave her a Wii and a Wii Fit for her birthday and we've been having a blast with that!  We've also been doing dorky things like bird watching in her back yard (it's harder than I thought to identify birds that you can't really see up close!) but yes ... there's an app for that ... and I downloaded it onto my handy-dandy iPad.

We're headed to the National Archives tomorrow to do some serious research, and I'm hoping to get my mom as excited about our genealogy as I am ... in all actuality, she may run screaming from the Archives (but I probably won't notice!)

Now I'm off to see if I can find a battery charger for my digital camera in the next few hours, because of all the things I could have forgotten to pack, that one was probably important.  I did remember to pack the iPad, my FlipPal (thanks mom!) with extra batteries, and my portable hard drive to use with my laptop.

Enjoy the rest of the week, and I'll post my NARA results soon!